• Kyodo


Bulgarian wrestler Kotooshu, assured of promotion to sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki, said Monday he is happy to have turned in a convincing performance in a pressure-packed situation at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photoBulgarian sumo wrestler Kotooshu (center), who has been assured
of promotion to ozeki, poses with Miyabiyama (left) and Tochinohana after
winning the Outstanding Performance Prize at the conclusion of the Kyushu
Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

“It was a very long 15 days,” Kotooshu said a day after finishing the tournament with an 11-4 record, which was convincing enough for sumo officials to make him the first European-born ozeki.

“I’m glad I was able to produce such a good result in the final tournament for stablemaster Sadogatake,” Kotooshu said, referring to his mentor who reached the retirement age of 65 during the 15-day meet at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

Kotooshu’s promotion is scheduled to be approved at a Japan Sumo Association executive committee meeting on Wednesday.

He has appeared in 19 tournaments since his debut in November 2002 — the quickest to reach the ozeki rank since 1958 when sumo introduced the current system of having six tournaments a year.

Yokozuna Asashoryu held the previous record of 22 tournaments.

“I didn’t even know the word ‘ozeki’ three years ago and I’ll just go on with my sumo career,” Kotooshu said in a packed news conference attended by about 70 reporters.

The 22-year-old added he has already thought about what he will say to a messenger who will convey the JSA’s decision to him on Wednesday.

No wrestler has been denied promotion to ozeki after the executive committee was convened in similar cases.

JSA Chairman Kitanoumi had earlier suggested Kotooshu would need at least 10 wins in the Kyushu tournament to be considered for promotion after going 12-3 and 13-2 in the previous two tournaments while staying in contention for the Emperor’s Cup until a very late stage both times.

Wrestling as a sekiwake, the third-highest rank on the sumo ladder, he lost his opening-day bout in the Kyushu meet and failed to keep pace with eventual winner Asashoryu.

But Kotooshu handed the Mongolian grand champion his only loss of the tournament and went on to defeat ozeki Chiyotaikai on his way to meeting the JSA’s loosely set promotion standard for ozeki candidates — roughly 33 wins or more in three meets.

Kotooshu received the Outstanding Performance Prize and the Fighting Spirit Prize for his strong showing in Fukuoka.

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